field trip Wednesday: Stoughton, Wisconsin

Yeah, who knew? I was well aware of the bakery treats to be had in Stoughton, not to mention the cheesey goodness. And I was familiar with the secondhand shopping opportunities as well. But Sachi and I went there today on our field trip day and found great crafty inspiration that I thought I should share with you. This is by no means an exhaustive list (I also got a great vintage suitcase for display at the shop from St. Vinnie's and three dresses at the Goodwill that we stopped at on our way out of Madison), but these are my three craft-related highlights from the day:

1. Spry Whimsy Fiber Arts. We happened to park on the street right in front of this place and were drawn in right away. I must say, there is something about Nuno felting that really appeals to me. I haven't done any felting at all, but this tempts me greatly. The shop is filled with felted creations and supplies and I've already put it on my Christmas list... and not just for myself.

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2. Diakonos Designs beads. Considering that we've put off our trip to Vintaj brass in Galena for warmer months, this was more than enough to satisfy my beading needs. The store is packed with pretty much anything a beader would want, including an interesting array of clay beads that were very tempting. I always like to see the way that individual store owners affect the composition of the store. It might seem that a bead store is a bead store is a bead store, but there are definitely some that stand out. I would count this store among them.  They had some inspiring created pieces, a great set-up for stamped charms and workshop options. I came home with some drilled river pebbles. I know, I know, I could do that myself. But it isn't something I've ever done before, and, honestly, I'm just fine to pay someone else to do it. I love what contemporary jewelers are doing with river rocks and I'm looking forward to making earrings - a pair for myself and maybe some for the shop, too.  Just a warning, if you are feeling strongly atheist (or just anti-Christian), you might want to wait to make a visit until you are at least feeling a little more pluralistic. Those who are paying attention, might have known that upon seeing the name of the store but my church education is a little slim on such matters. It is unfortunate that the Christian Right has tainted the image of the cross and scripture in my mind - I automatically brace myself for some tirade which I consider unChristian when someone comes across strongly as Christian, even though I myself, consider myself Christian and reject the way that we allow the Christian Right to dominate all Christian conversation, to the point where someone else might say that I am coming across as too strongly Christian. Such a tirade was completely absent from this store, but there was a LOT of Christian imagery - just in case that is something that makes you uncomfortable, I don't want you to accuse me of sending you there without warning.

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3. Saving Thyme fabric shop. Ah, if you only knew how many yards of fabric have passed through these fingers. Just like with bead shops, not all quilting fabric stores are created equal. In particular, each owner tends to reflect their strengths or interests as related to color. I am NOT a muslin/homespun type of girl so I've met with disappointment on occaision. This little quilt shop wasn't packed, but I found several pieces of fabric that I will turn into headbands so I'd definitely say that there was more in my particular area of interest than I expected. They also had an assortment of batiks I would have found appealing... if I didn't already have more batiks at home than I have time to sew. I did almost bite my tongue to keep from interjecting while a customer asked for advice on a quilt that she was making. She was working on her first quilt but didn't have it with her and was asking for recommendations for borders. From my own personal experience, of oftentimes missing the mark on borders, I really think that she should bring the quilt in to pick out the borders. But then again, I'm the type of person who has to see a thing in person. I'm sure that whatever she picks out will be fine. Right?

(Sorry that I don't have a picture of my fabric. It's already waiting in the cold water wash laundry basket at my parents' house).

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Oh dear, I hardly know where to begin!  After being away for a week and soaking up lots of sunshine and inspiration, my mind is kind of a befuddled whirl.  But I know you just want to hear about crafty inspiration, so, let's see.  Sachi and I arrived on Sunday morning to the downtown Los Angeles convention center, where the Craft and Hobby Association was holding its biannual meeting/exhibit/show.  The event includes workshops on building your business, social networking and crafting, as well as showcasing products from about 500 exhibitors.  There are always zillions of make n' takes that one could spend time on, but we were really focused on checking out all the vendors, stocking up on ideas and inspiration and products for the shop.


We walked the entire show on our first day, with a break for lunch, placed a few orders, and then returned the next day to walk the whole thing again, make final decisions and place orders. The show is for all sorts of crafts, so we get to see embroidery floss, yarn, canvas, sketchpads, scrapbook papers, Mod Podge, you name it.  There are fine craft supplies and more basic items - things you might find at Anthology, and things you might find at Michael's craft stores.


As usual, there was lots of inspiration to be found.  I'm not sure if it is because this is our third year - things that looked new for two years can't sustain the third year, or if the economy had an effect, or what, exactly.  It didn't seem like there were as many fabulously merchandised spaces as I remember from the past.  That said, some of our favorites included lots of clever ways to use paper: as garlands, wreaths and other decorations.


This might be one of my all-time favorite wreaths.  It uses little puffballs of yarn and also cupcake papers (!!) and strips of book pages to fill the various paper cones that compose the wreath.  Seriously, this (plus Anthropologie's clever cupcake wall art installations) makes me want to go out and buy all the many cute cupcake papers like these that are available nowadays and use them for paper projects.

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Overall, it's pretty amazing to see everything that people are doing with paper.  There was very little 2-D work, lots of dimensional additions to pages and "scrapbooks" that went completely off the page: either as framed wall pieces, shadow boxes, or embellishments on accessories, aprons or tote bags. 


It reminds me of what my former boss used to say of accessories: a handbag starts out with a simple new shape.  Then the next step is to embellish the simple shape, and then embellish it more, and then more.  Eventually you reach a point where you've embellished it all that you can, and we react by going back to a new, pared-down and simplified shape, and the cycle starts all over again.  It feels a little as if scrapbooking is reaching this point.  Just about everything that can be added to a piece of paper is now available.  It appeals greatly to me - flowers and sparkles and texture and glitter but it is hard to see what more can be done.  That didn't stop us from buying flowers and sparkles and textures, of course.  There are some great stickers and flowers and cabachons on their way.


There sure are some amazing things being done to paper, and it felt a lot more creative.  There was less of the cookie-cutter template work going on and a little more creativity flowing underneath it all.  Say what you like about scrapbooking, but I consider it a gateway drug - getting people who don't consider themselves crafty to start to consider composition and color.  And I think their desire to move beyond the page is reflected in these more elaborate works of paper craft bordering on art.  Certainly there were lots of possibilities for things that I'd consider more altered books and less scrapbooks, if that makes sense.  We found some really lovely wrapping/art papers, including handmade textures in sheer whites and gorgeous Florentine patterns.

There was also a strong underlying element of textile being combined with paper.  Besides, the needlepoint and yarn-hooking and knitting and needle-felting, there were spools of thread for decoration (is this wreath so great?  It uses old spools wrapped with various pieces of scrapbook paper) and also patterns on papers and notions.  Additionally, there was a lot of sewn paper, people using sewing machines to stitch paper together for garlands and onto scrapbook pages.  I love sewn paper so that was fun to see.  Sorry you have to tip your head, the computer was not cooperating (but that was a bunch of tickets sewn together into garlands for decoration.  That was the 7 Gypsies booth - they always have such clever displays!).



Other inspirations for things to do with paper: party decorations for straws and cupcakes,


sweet simple garland made by stapling little scraps of paper and many other garland ideas
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accordion folding them to make medallions - petite for first place ribbons or oversize for party decorations.  I could see filling the window with a whole bunch of these made from our various wrapping paper sheets.

a paper bird cage holding a paper bird


shadow boxes filled with fun vintage ephemera   (we'll be getting blank shadow boxes that you can paint or decoupage and then fill with your own goodies). 
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and other fun random groupings of paper and ephemera like this one, which got us to dreaming about plans for new window installations.


Combined with all the inspiration we found visitng L.A.-area shops and the orders that we placed, Sachi filled several pages on her little notebook with ideas and plans for the shop.  Should be fun to see how it all rolls out over the next several months (the ship dates are staggered between now and mid-April - first to arrive are encaustic kits - I got the email notification from USPS today).

i like YOU!


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First of all, how great is it that when you call, you are answered with "i like you"?  We finally made it to this inspiring store in Minneapolis last week.  It is a small world - one of the owners of i like you has charming parents who live in Madison and stop into our store periodically.  So we've heard about this store for a while now, with information added by some of our artists who are also some of their artists. And, yes, that's right, that's a swing and astroturf you see there.

But now it was finally our turn.  And, can I just say how jealous I am?!  Their space is so totally amazing and huge - I sure woulnd't mind having that much space at 218 State Street, but I know our neighbors would object because it would mean knocking out a wall and taking some of their space.  Sigh.  Someday...

In the meantime, I'll just pout a little bit.  First of all, how fun is this little kids' area? 

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And then there is the decor which fills the large space so well.  My former boss used to always say that was the trick with larger spaces, being able to fill them.  But the girls at i like you have done it so well.  There's that wall of keys, the wall of book covers, the fun fabric garland that's draped around the edges.  And let's not even get me started on the shelves of art supplies in the back of the store!

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And then there's all the fun product that they've filled the space with.  I got myself a great print of an old typewriter (and I could tell that Sachi was really jealous that she didn't see it first), a present for Sachi... and then there are all their great t-shirts.  I happen to know that my ferris wheel/karma shirt is already on its way (thanks Mary Jo), and the Grain Belt print was tempting for grad school friends of mine.

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And then, the grand finale.... a card catalog file.  I know, I know, maybe it wasn't what you were expecting, but I have ALWAYS wanted a card catalog file, even come close once to scoring one for free, but there's never been enough space in my house, and now there's not enough space in the shop, let alone in the car.  Next time I have the opportunity though, I won't pass it up, even if it has to live in the basement for a while.  Aren't they clever?  Using it to store cards by subject?  It's a great way to hold an assortment of cards.  And now I think my skin is getting a little green tinge to it from all this envy.  Thanks, thanks a lot, i like you.  See, even when you are feeling jealous you can't help giving them a compliment.
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